Home Sweet Home
I went home over Spring Vacation. I had hoped to go to some other country on an exciting vacation, or if not, close the storm shutters and sleep for a week. Mom however, sensed my ANGST! from clear across the Pacific (now you see where I get my senses from) and brought me home. Which, really, was the best thing I could’ve done.
Being in Japan starts to dull one’s American sensibilities after a while. Things that are weird there no longer seem so, and things that are ordinary here become absolutely amazing. For example, I got off at the airport, and my first thought as I came through customs was, “Whoa….black people. Huh, look at that. HOLY SHIT, IS THAT A MEXICAN?!” See, this is no big deal for any of you, but for me this was an event.
After meeting with my parents, we went immediately to a restaurant where I had some good ‘ol American steak. One might say I tore up some steak, again.
Something else out that stood out was that people weren’t wearing surgical masks over their faces. In Japan, when people get sick they put on the masks, I suppose in an effort to keep their germs to themselves. After a year and a half, I completely forgot how fucking weird that was. I remember when Michael Jackson did it and we all thought he was a freak. Well, he still is a freak, but now I don’t mind the mask so much. I understand why Japan still loves MJ; the mask and the apparent rampant pedophilia are nothing new to them.
I’d brought home the farewell letters I’d gotten from the sannensei before graduation to show to my parents. Mom mused over the drawings, and stopping at Anpanman, she noted, “Wow. All the Japanese cartoons sure do look like little penises, don’t they?” I personally don’t see the Anpanman to Penis connection, but Mom has no idea what a stammering and significant comment she inadvertently made about Japanese culture. Dad meanwhile was a bit freaked over the love confessions from the girls, and I had to explain that I wasn’t doing anything inappropriate with my students. (I tastefully failed to mention the Snuzzlebunnies incident to either of them.) He was also a bit uncomfortable when I had to explain that the marriage proposals were actually from the boys, not the girls.
It’d be so cool if I still had my sanity, and all of this shit was still weird, but it’s not.
Oh, and food! Man, I enjoyed steak and Mexican food and real pizza, the stuff that’s hard to come by in Japan. Any friend I met with who said, “Hey, let’s go get some Japanese food,” got BITCH SLAPPED THE FUCK DOWN without hesitation. I’ve heard this is pretty common though. Other JET friends have said that when they went home for a visit their friends were like, “Hey, let’s get some sushi!” Now, I don’t know where your train of thought is going there, but if I’ve been living in Japan for over a year, Japanese food is the last thing I’d want. Would you do this to anyone else? Would you pull someone out of a burning building and say, “Hey, are you alright? Would you like a cigarette?” Would you rescue someone from a deserted island, then suggest a trip to the beach? I just don’t understand.
I went to dinner with my parents one night, and I was talking about how the Japanese like to eat ALL THE PARTS of the chicken. They don’t waste anything – hearts, wings, cartilage, feet, beaks, the entire chicken gets cooked up and eaten at some point. My Dad then posited, “Well then, Japanese people are a lot like black people in that regard.”
Sometimes I forget he’s from the South.
Another night, I was hanging out with my best friend and we ordered a pizza. I answered the door, took the pizza from the delivery boy, and paid him with tip. I came back to find my friend shaking her head at me in disgust. “What?” I asked, completely oblivious to whatever it is I did. “I can’t believe you just bowed to the delivery guy,” she said. I did what?! I didn’t even realize I’d done it. I really have been in Japan for too long.
The night before my flight back to Japan, I went to a baseball game. The regular season hadn’t started yet, so it was just exhibition (A’s vs Giants), but it was still a bajillion zillion times better than Japanese baseball. In Japanese baseball, the strategy is to get a man on base… then bunt. They bunt with no outs, one out, two outs, runners on first, second, third, the bases loaded, it doesn’t matter. The pitcher bunts, the power hitter bunts, the leadoff hitter bunts, they might as well call it Buntball and just be done with it. The funny thing is, the Japanese almost sort of think that they invented baseball. A friend of mine asked why the Japanese always bunt, and I laughed, “Are you kidding?! Sacrificing yourself for the good of the team! Really is there any other choice?”
When the national anthem played, I nearly cried. “Kimigayo” is nice, but it’s no Star Spangled Banner. A few rows down, a group of guys who were drunk, before the first inning, were heckling the players, and a group of college students in the next section talked loudly about frat parties and drinking games.
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.